The South Island of New Zealand has an embarrassment of natural glories, from towering snow-capped mountains to haunting fiords, that could all just as easily lay claim to be the country’s best spot. The one that that wins my vote for favorite place on Earth, though, is Golden Bay: a beachy and bright area that feels like pure sunshine.
The shining star of the area rests just south of the bay itself, so I have to stretch to include it. The Abel Tasman Coast Track, a 37-mile trail that earns its place as one of the country’s Great Walk, traverses along the bright turquoise water of Tasman Bay and occasionally turns to dip into rich rainforests filled with beech trees and ferns up to 20 meters tall. While almost every spot along the trail would make for a picture-perfect desktop background, the standout is Totaranui Bay, a beach where the rich orange sand is almost as red as clay. There’s climbing too, routes that go right up coastal cliffs and a funky deep water solo problem over the Takaka River.
Takaka, the small town hub of the area, is filled with brightly colored cafes and tasty food options. A burger that I had at Roots Bar was possibly the best burger of my life, but that also might be the post-backpacking-trip stomach talking.
If you ever want to make the trek to the Golden Bay area, you’ll need to steel your stomach. The number of switchbacks on the drive there is almost comical, but it makes the reward of such a warm and beautiful place a little bit sweeter.